KAMLOOPS - A new proposed provincial tax credit for search and rescue volunteers will help out volunteers with Kamloops Search and Rescue "a little bit."
Search manager Alan Hobler says the up to $150 per year tax credit for members who put in more than 200 hours per year is a token of recognition for the hard work volunteers put in.
"They have to pay for their own equipment. Personal equipment usually costs between $1,000 and $2,000," Hobler says. "It’ll help them out a little bit."
This past weekend, the provincial government announced search and rescue volunteers and firefighters with volunteer fire departments who put in more than 200 hours per year will be eligible for a credit.
"Thousands of volunteers throughout the province may soon be eligible for a $3,000 non-refundable tax credit, providing a benefit up to $151.80 each year," the government says in a media release. "Combined with a similar federal credit, volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers may be eligible for up to $601.80 (in credits)... each year."
It will be introduced as part of the government's 2017 budget.
Hobler says at least half of the Kamloops Search and Rescue members average more than 200 hours per year, and although most of them volunteer because of their love of helping others, an added incentive is always a positive.
"All of these little incentives sort of encourage people to stay longer, put in a few extra hours a year," Hobler says. "But mostly the volunteers that we get are doing it because they have a passion for doing it and are not lured by tax incentives."
The $150 could go to backpacks, boots or jackets, Hobler says, but he's mostly thankful for the recognition the province is giving search and rescue members.
Along with the credit, the province is unveiling a memorial in Victoria in March to honour all search and rescue members, but especially those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Hobler says no Kamloops Search and Rescue members have died during a task, but he does remember a member from another crew who died during a search more than five years ago.
Sheilah Sweatman, a volunteer with Nelson Search and Rescue, died during a swift water task in June 2011, according to the Nelson Star.
"She was a young, vibrant gal that kind of epitomizes everything you want in a search and rescue member," Hobler said. "For her to lose her life while on a task was quite shocking to everybody in the search and rescue community and around the province."
Hobler says although safety procedures were in the midst of changing when Sweatman's death happened, crews have come a long way in safety since her death.
"Since then we’ve implemented a lot of changes and the province has provided a lot of direction on standard operating procedures and safe work practices," Hobler says.
Although Hobler is greatful for the proposed tax credit and the memorial, he says he would like to see more long-term funding from the province.
"(The government has) done this one time funding opportunity which has been great, but we’re hopeful going into the future that the province is going to continue to support search and rescue teams financially," he says.
For more information on Kamloops Search and Rescue, you can visit their website.
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